I just returned from another trip to Haiti. My 10th since 2009. I love that beautiful island and the people who live there. One of our translators asked me on this trip if it was my first time to visit. When I told him no it was my 10th, he put his hand on his heart and in that beautiful french accent said, “You’re Haitian, you are now Haitian.” That was one of the biggest compliments I have ever received. It has nothing to do with PB&J, I just wanted to tell you that because it makes me smile every time I hear those words in my head.
I will probably write a few blogs about this last trip because it was one of the greatest trips I have ever been privileged enough to participate in. My church, CrossRoads (www.crossroadsantioch.org) took a team of 16 people. The team was actually much larger than 16 though because almost our entire church participated in this trip. We were just the 16 who got to lay eyes on everything first hand.
My friend, Dennis who was on the trip witnessed a moment all of us who have traveled to Haiti have witnessed at one time or another, just in different forms. He saw a scene play out in front of him that I can guarantee will never leave his mind. You know when you’re a child and your mom is making you eat and says, “There are starving children who would love to have that food!” When that phrase reaches from the past and slaps you in the face, it’s a moment of awakening. Dennis tried to tell our church about this scene and with tears streaming down his cheeks was finally able to relay the event. It all started with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Our team worked on site at a school/church that was damaged by the earthquake. (I will blog on this location at a later date because it’s a story in itself.) We were way out in the middle of nowhere, so we had to carry lunch for the team with us. What is the easiest thing to make? You guessed it…pb&j. They were made with hands that had been in dirty water, shoveling sand, holding babies, but had been slathered with hand sanitizer. If you’re a germaphobe like me, the thoughts can make you shutter. The sandwiches were handed to us on a napkin with a handful of Pringles and 2 cookies. Several of the team members groaned at the thought of eating this after working so incredibly hard, but it’s what we had so we ate it and got back to work.
In Haiti when a team like us show up to work, word gets around in the village and people slowly gather to watch. By the end of each work day we usually had quite the audience. At lunchtime there were a dozen or so people observing us making concrete to help rebuild this school/church. As Dennis stood and ate his lunch he watched as a little girl from the village was handed a sandwich.
She took one bite, found her father and gave what was left to him.
He took one bite, handed the rest of the sandwich to his wife.
She took one bite, handed the rest of the sandwich to her son.
He took one bite, handed the rest of the sandwich to his sister.
She took one bite, and went and got her friend and gave the last bite to her friend.
Oh my heart…
You may ask why in the world we go to Haiti as much and as often as we do and it’s for that reason. God commands us to go, so we go. Was that one bite of sandwich the only food received by this family the entire day? I don’t know, but if I had to guess I would say probably. After you see something like that you can’t come home and stay the same. You can’t simply turn your head and shake away the memory. I can’t separate that image from my own family. What if those were my two boys and husband who had no food? What are the dreams of this family that are being squashed because they have to concentrate so hard on feeding their children? What is the difference between me and that mom? Why am I the blessed one who has a wealth of food, and she has to fight so hard for food? All questions I walk away from each trip asking myself. The answers continue to elude me.
God has a lot to say about the poor in Psalm 82:3, Psalm 41:1, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 21:13, and many more places throughout His Book. He doesn’t say it’s wrong to do it this way, or you can’t give too much, or you need to set up a system, or whatever the politically correct way to go about this is for today. He just says to take care of them. We make it much harder than it has to be.
This trip was all about service. Serving the great people of Haiti so they can share the Good News of Jesus easier. We worked and helped empower a local pastor to do his job bigger and better than before. But oddly enough, it’s myself and my fellow team members who walk away from these trips mentally shaken, emotionally and physically depleted, but spiritually empowered to come home and do greater things in our communities, and greater things back in Haiti.